It's only a pre-season game, one of six on the Rangers schedule, but you'd have to think that Alain Vigneault has had this one circled since the schedule was finalized, as have each and every member of the Blueshirts Faithful, as well.
Rangers vs. Canucks. Alain Vigneault's current team versus his former club. The return of Vigneault to Vancouver just four months after being relieved of his duties by the Canucks. And, of course, the Rangers first meeting with John Tortorella since the former Blueshirts head coach swapped job titles with Vigneault.
Thursday is a night of many storylines, for sure.
"It was a great seven years," Vigneault said of his tenure in Vancouver. "I am looking forward to the opportunity of going there again. That building has great memories for myself. I really enjoyed it, and now it's time to get it done with the Rangers."
Vigneault has largely avoided discussing his successful run as Canucks head coach since being hired by the Rangers, and he has followed that course in the days leading up to Thursday's pre-season tilt in Vancouver. Like his players, Vigneault has been sticking with the "Clean Slate" theme and focusing almost exclusively on the days ahead, not the ones in the past.
It doesn't mean that Vigneault is not looking forward to his return to Rogers Arena on Thursday, though.
"When I got let go, I didn't have a chance to say thank you to the people I'd been working with for seven years 'cause I wasn't in Vancouver at the time," explained Vigneault. "But right now is hockey time, all those people that I'd been working with for the past seven years are there right now. I'm definitely going to take the time and the opportunity to thank them."
Under Vigneault's guidance the Canucks won back-to-back Presidents Trophies in 2010-11 and 2011-12---narrowly beating out the Rangers the second year, captured the Northwest Division title six times, and came within one victory of winning the 2011 Stanley Cup. He won 313 games and had a .632 winning percentage over seven seasons in Vancouver.
Though he is a Ranger now, there is much for Vigneault to be proud of from his time with the Canucks.
He will be swarmed by the media at Thursday's morning skate and will do his best to downplay his return to Vancouver---as Tortorella likely will do, too, when he inevitably will be pressed about facing his former club, albeit in pre-season action. But you have to know that this is something a little bigger, more special, for both of these proud men.
"As much as I hope Vancouver has a tremendous amount of success, except against us, I'm real focused on the Rangers and getting to know the (Eastern Conference)," said Vigneault when asked if he has been following news on the Canucks since departing Vancouver.
Just another pre-season game? Alain Vigneault and John Totorella may say Yes, but you know that there's more to it than that.